'Super blood wolf moon' set to treat UK stargazers

A supermoon rises above the Maritime Prowess statue by Albert Hemstock Hodge at Hull Guildhall, ahead of the lunar eclipse. Credit: PA

Skygazers in the UK are set to be treated to a rare phenomenon dubbed a "super blood wolf moon" in the early hours of Monday morning.

A total lunar eclipse will colour the lunar surface a reddish hue at the same time it will appear brighter and closer to earth than normal, seeing phenomena known as a blood moon and supermoon combine.

And in January, the full moon is sometimes labelled a "wolf" moon, creating the unusual celestial label which seems to have stuck.

The clearest views in the UK are likely to be across the far south east, or over many northern and western parts, the Met Office said.

The optimum viewing time is around 5.12am, with the maximum eclipse coming as the moon is completely submerged within the Earth's shadow.

Astronomers are particularly interested in this year's blood moon, which will hang in skies above the northern hemisphere, as it is the last of its kind for two years.

"We're going into this unusual lull in total lunar eclipses over the next couple of years," explained Tom Kerss, an astronomer from the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

"So this is a really good one to catch as it's going to be a long time before you catch another one like this, we will have other lunar eclipses, we just won't have anything quite as spectacular until May 2021."

Weather permitting, the total lunar eclipse should be visible from the UK for a reasonable amount of time.

A super moon rises over the City of London last year. Credit: PA

The eclipse is set to begin at 2.36am on Monday January 21, though observers are unlikely to see anything until much later in the morning, with the best time around 5.12am.

"The moon will be red between about 4.40am and about 6.45am, so it's actually more than an hour that you have to observe this blood moon phenomenon where the moon is totally eclipsed," Mr Kerss said.

The Royal Museums Greenwich will also host a Facebook Live event from 4am, where viewers can watch as events unfold.

A blood moon last occurred in July 2018, though clouds largely obscured the celestial phenomenon in the UK.